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The California Drought and Green Facades

The California Drought and Green Facades
August 5, 2015 Dean Hill

By now, everyone is probably aware of the significant grip that drought has on the California economy and landscape.  In January, Governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency in California and in April, based upon state water officials reports that reservoirs, rainfall totals and the snowpack remain critically low, Governor Brown doubled down with an executive order to strengthen the state’s ability to manage water and habitat effectively in drought conditions and called on all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.

Drought-diagram

So as designers, product manufacturers, consumers and homeowners, what can we do to be responsible when it comes to green facade systems?

One of the most important things we can do is educate ourselves by seeking out resources that are available in order to make us better informed stewards of our natural resources.  Obviously, the internet is a great place to start and just by conducting a couple of general searches, we can begin to further understand the role that our landscapes can play in water conservation.  Water influences the landscape in two ways; how it is applied and what it is applied to.

As far as appBlog_micro_irrigationlication is concerned, the EPA WaterSense® website is a great resource and shows examples of ways that irrigation technology can make a big difference in keeping your irrigation system running efficiently without a lot of effort on your part. Water efficient irrigation technologies such as WaterSense® labeled irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors, rainfall shutoff devices, efficient sprinkler heads and micro-irrigation can be very useful in helping to increase conservation.  According to the EPA about 30% of the water used by the American household is devoted to outdoor water use and some experts estimate that up to 50% of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation, wind or runoff caused by overwatering. greenscreen® strongly recommends to ask your irrigation contractor about WaterSense® labeled components that are available for your outdoor watering system and even more important, conduct regular checks or maintenance of your system to ensure ongoing water efficiency.

What plants that irrigation is applied to is also very important.  One excellent resource that greenscreen® uses regularly is the book, Landscape Plants for California Gardens by Robert Perry.  Bob has been a licensed landscape architect since 1972 and has actively participated in many professional projects where his expertise on California native plants and landscapes for water conservation have been applied.  While there is a lot of technical information available in this book, the basis is established in two easy to understand concepts.  The first is to understand the types of watering requirements for specific plants and the second is to place plants with similar watering requirements in the same place (hydrozones), so that the irrigation can be efficiently designed and applied.

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Most common vines used for greenscreen® installations in California are listed in the book as having Moderate watering requirements and here are some that might show great potential with Moderate/Low watering requirements and reduced summer water needs:

  • Bougainvillea glabra – Bougainvillea
  • Bougainvillea spectabilis and cultivars – Bougainvillea
  • Hardenbergia violaceae and cultivars – Lilac Vine
  • Jasminum humile – Italian Jasmine
  • Tecomaria capensis – Cape Honeysuckle
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Cape Honeysuckle

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Bougainvillea

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Hardenbergia

If you are looking for a great plant resource for California in addition to some of the other ones available, such as the Sunset Western Garden Book, this one should be on your shelf.  Also, greenscreen® provides specific guidelines on what else should be taken into consideration when designing, installing and maintaining your green facade projects

Another important thing that we can do is to be on the lookout for water conservation opportunities around our own homes, workplaces, schools and communities.  For example, in the greenscreen® parking lot we have a number of planters with trellis panels that are used for experimentation and to basically help make the parking area, well, less of a parking area.  We have installed two rather large (600 gallon) rainwater harvesting tanks that collect free rainwater off of the roof and that water is then used to irrigate the planters that help make our environment a little nicer.  greenscreen® also has dual flush toilets throughout our office that use 1.28 gallons per flush instead of the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush.  According to the EPA, if all old inefficient toilets in the United States were replaced with WaterSense® labeled models, we could save 520 billion gallons of water per year or the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in about 12 days.

It doesn’t appear that the drought in California is going away any time soon and it may get worse before it gets better.  As a company based out of Los Angeles, we at greenscreen® are aware of the concerns and considerations that we face today and may have to face down the road.  We are hopeful that if everybody pulls together and does whatever they can in their own little corner regarding water conservation, the spigot won’t go dry.

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